Friday, October 31

link it up

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Did you decorate with pumpkins yet??

D has decided to come to Boston for Thanksgiving, so we're off to sunny Florida tonight to get some family time in with his parents. I think we picked a good weekend to fly south- snow in the forecast up and down the east coast, no thank you.

beach view from our last visit

I love discussing life and love with my siblings- I think our shared background leaves us good and bad at things in the same measure. One of the best articles I've seen on relationships this year has some advice that so closely mirrors ideas my brother has shared that I'm suspicious he's read it. Yes, R? If not, prepare to be validated.

A very fun instagram to follow if you like design or fashion.

For me, the most annoying hashtag on social media right now. Although I LOVE when it's used ironically.

The FBI can teach you how to make friends. I actually found number one to be insightful and something I hadn't heard before.

My sister is an avid tea drinker. You need to see this incredible product, currently on track to win all sorts of awards before hopefully entering production next year.

Finally read this stunningly strange story of "the last true hermit" D sent me ages ago.

Thursday, October 30

bibliophile [seating arrangements]

I am always in for well-written chick lit.

Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead

Let's jump right into the blurb:

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to the impeccably appropriate Greyson Duff. The weekend is full of champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust stir beneath the surface. 

Winn Van Meter, father of the bride, is not having a good time. Barred from the exclusive social club he’s been eyeing since birth, he’s also tormented by an inappropriate crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid, Agatha, and the fear that his daughter, Livia—recently heartbroken by the son of his greatest rival—is a too-ready target for the wiles of Greyson’s best man. When old resentments, a beached whale and an escaped lobster are added to the mix, the wedding that should have gone off with military precision threatens to become a spectacle of misbehavior.

So, if that doesn't paint the picture I don't know what will. It's similar to the TV show Revenge in a way, but less murder-y (and therefore more realistic). I liked the condensed timeline, which takes place over a 3-day weekend. Everything feels a bit inevitable, in that you won't be shocked by the action but rather will see it coming a mile away, but it's still fun to watch it unfold. The only thing missing is likable characters, but you can rarely have it all- it's written from the perspective of the FOB, who is a walking cliche and more or less terrible person.

If you like reading about the exploits of WASP-y families, but still hope to learn a few new vocabulary words and encounter sentences with more than 10 words, pick this one up.

Wednesday, October 29

DIY inspo [pumpkin decorating]

'Tis the season for holiday decorating! Before we get to Christmas, we have to show some respect for Halloween and Thanksgiving. I like to decorate with fall-inspired things, rather than specific to either autumnal holiday, so I can go with one theme and leave it alone. This year I've put up pumpkins, gourds, and pine-cones that can last through October and November. I went au naturel this year and left all my produce as-is, but wanted to pull together some of my favorite pumpkin decorating techniques at the moment.

Malachite, along with tortoise shell, is one of my favorite finishes at the moment. These are so lovely!
I love this idea. I already have my fall candle (Sweater Weather) and my gourds together on a teak tray, why not take it one step further?

Succulents and pumpkins, two of my favorite things brought together. The best part? This project doesn't involve cutting into the pumpkin, and you use live succulents. This means the arrangement lasts for months, and after the pumpkin deteriorates, just cut off the top layer (which the succulents will have rooted into) and move it to your garden or an indoor planter. Very well done post, check it out.
Not much of a DIY, but still a beautiful centerpiece.

A good deal of effort but a unique result with this shallow carve.


Tuesday, October 28

cheap eats [brussels sprout bacon and goat cheese pasta]

A quiet weekend at home was a perfect opportunity for D and I to try a new recipe. We used to love cooking together, but have only done so a handful of times since B school started. It's nice to work towards a common goal, to engage in the kitchen dance, to be rewarded with something delicious for your efforts. If we're cooking together, we always make it a bit of an event: get some music going, pour drinks, bust out the aprons.

It's also nice to clean out the fridge, so why not do both? Nothing like a good dose of practicality poured all over romance. I've found my most effective way to use Pinterest  is to search for recipes with the specific ingredients I have on hand- otherwise, I'm too overwhelmed by all the beautiful and delicious food that I can't make without a walk to the grocery store. I searched for brussels sprouts, goat cheese, and whole wheat pasta, all of which I had open and/or available in the pantry. I found a wonderful recipe over here, although I did sub bacon for prosciutto. It was a learning experience for both of us: I learned to reserve some pasta water to make a cheese sauce, and also poached my first egg!

If you're new to the poach game too, I have a source: Pure Wow taught me. You can go watch their video here, or I can just tell you: add 1T vinegar to a pot of almost-boiling water, start a whirlpool, and drop an egg into the middle. Leave it alone for 2 minutes, then fish it out and lay it on a paper towel. Too easy, and it's so beautiful to crack into that runny yolk. Maybe my new favorite way to do eggs at dinnertime.

Friday, October 24

link it up

Friends! The weekend is here again. D and I had so much fun in Asheville (post coming) that we stayed Sunday until quite late, and I flew off on my last trip of my current job early Monday morning. Happy to be hanging in this weekend- we have a visit from D's brother (which means good conversation and meals to come!), a trip to the NC State Fair, and a little pre-season Duke Basketball.

These very honest slogans cracked me up.

This one is for you, dad, and in honor of some of your soundest advice. I would add on your reasoning (shows respect for others, especially for where you are going) and highlight this excellent thought: "just because we may be anonymous doesn't mean we are invisible".

Experience the power of a bookbook. I love Ikea.

Toasting as a universal language: "the most obvious way to break the ice (and then pour booze all over it.)"

If I (or my machine?) created something this lovely, I would not be eating it. D, check this out.

Not to share all my secrets, but apparently there are some new tips to booking the cheapest airfare.

Monday, October 20

bibliophile [casual vacancy]

I'm NOT just saying I like this because it's J.K. Rowling. But that probably doesn't hurt.

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling

Damn she's a good writer. I wasn't worried, but I'm still pleased that I dig JKR even when she's not writing about Hogwarts. Blurb:

A big novel about a small town...
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Even though it's not HP, there are some similarities: big discussion/focus on class divide, wonderful character description and development, and truly creating a world. Ok, so this one isn't magical,  but you truly get to know this small town. It's not happy-go-lucky, certainly, but it inspired some interesting reflection on the cruelties of life and how they transform us, and those around us. Since I enjoy her writing and her character development, I didn't mind the slower pace for the first 70% of the novel; she's really laying the scene and drawing you in, but some critics found it boring. All the action happens when characters collide in the last quarter of the book. I thought it was a thrilling end, with car-crash like commotion and destruction.

Give it a read! I have the Cuckoo's Calling on my list next, her pen-name novel (like we don't all know it's her...)

Friday, October 17

link it up


Spent every night this week researching Asheville (and conferring with my Southern friends y'all) and think we have the BEST trip planned. Dinner res at Chestnut tonight and The Admiral tomorrow, long hikes in the morning to work up our appetite for Biscuit Heads, a brewery list a mile long (plus a distillery tour if we wanna get saucy), and bopping around downtown for chocolate, cheese, coffee, and cocktails, our holy 4 C's. Of COURSE a visit to Biltmore Estates, the largest private residence in the US. That's royalty up there and I can't wait to see it....and the 5 antique shops located within a mile. If you have any further ideas for me, do share. Photos to come.

I use Yelp on occasion when looking for a new restaurant in one of my work regions, and I've witnessed some pretty silly, and in my opinion, irrelevant reviews. This Kansas City restaurant fired off a most sassy reply to a one star review. I always love when both sides get in the mud.

How cool is this: Scoopshoot will help connect you and your amazing instagrams to companies that want to purchase your work. Basically, it's a crowd-sourced stock photo website. Sell your snaps for a mutually agreed upon price, usually $5-$50, to news outlets, big brands, anyone that's buying. You can just snap away as normal or you can post specifically to "tasks" they have assigned- a recent request for pictures of boats, kayaks, canoes, yachts, and ships received 2,500 submissions. If you're taking the picture anyway, might as well make a buck.

Ok, I don't have a link for this one, but Pinterest taught me something amazing this week. Remember all that spiralize info I shared with y'all this week? Well, if you want rice-like texture from your veggies instead of pasta-like texture, try this: spiralize a sweet potato, than pulse the noodles in a food processor until they are a crumb-like consistency. VEGGIE RICE FOREVER. Also works with squash, carrots, PLANTAINSohyum, and other harder produce. I'm going to make my mom's stuffed bell peppers recipe using this idea!

Go get some free art! D will be jealous, he wants to print this one. Don't forget that you can print architecture prints (sometimes called engineering prints) for a few bucks at FedEx. Costco also does large scale. Keep in mind it's only black and white and won't be crystal clear, but that sounds ideal to me.

Is this the cutest fall dress there ever was? Yes.

Wednesday, October 15

discover [hotel tonight]

No posts yet this week? For shame! Instead of blogging, I decided to spend yesterday evening doing hours (and hours...I self-identified as a maximizer over a year ago) doing research for a last minute weekend escape. And why am I able to embark on an unplanned, spontaneous vacation while staying within my budget?

Hotel Tonight.

I'm not sure who shared this with me, but considering how much I travel, my helpful friends are often sending me hotel or flight related hacks. And this is one of the best. 

Hotel Tonight allows you to book hotels for the current evening, or up to 7 days out, at discounted rates. Pretty standard, right? I guess, but they do it the BEST. The app is incredibly user friendly and functional: they sort the hotels and label them with one of a handful of descriptors from Basic (clean but no frills) to Charming (B&B's! old homes!) to Luxe (hubba hubba), and you can book in just 3 clicks. Ultimately I care about price,and these are the rock-bottom lowest you're going to find.

The best deals (I've done a LOT of monitoring, but this is just anecdotal) are always available for same-day reservations. Which makes sense- when it's 6pm, I'm sure hotels assume those rooms are going unused, and they're willing to fill them at low rates. I was stranded in Chicago last month and found 5-star hotels offering $139 10pm at night. Talk about late check-in. D and I decided that Asheville is too good of a getaway to leave to chance, so we decided to book a few days out- which gives me time to pick which breweries and pubs we'll be visiting in "Beer City USA" (definitely this one, and this one). 

It's funny, one of their taglines is "plan less, live more". That is SO not me- if I don't plan it, is it even worth living?!- but Hotel Tonight actually encourages me to pull the trigger and get out the door because I'm confident they truly are the best system with the lowest prices out there.

So check it out! My invite code is MGIBBONS34 to get $25 off your first booking (and the same for me, too).

Thursday, October 9

cheap eats [zoodles]

Ahh zoodles. So many opportunities from such a simple process.

I made me and my sister this Mexican-ish meal in just a few quick minutes. I mixed a can of black beans, a can of corn, and a can of diced green chilies and tossed it with one big spiralized zucchini. Topped it off with mango and avocado and some baked plantains and we were both stuffed. So much better than tossing it all on white rice my friends.

I made the salad below using a spalsh of balsamic vinegar and olive oil as dressing, then added red onion, basil, and mint, and topped it off with grilled peaches and goat cheese. Basically any salad recipe is going to work here.

Zucchini are, of course, not the only thing you can cut up with this bad boy. I have done sweet potato spirals, which I then baked (half the pan with old bay, half the pan with cinnamon). I've done carrots a few times, but they're a little tougher because they're thin- with this spiralizer, you lose a 1/4 inch core down the middle of your veggie, which can be significant if your produce is thin to begin with. I always eat the middle, so it's not a waste, but it's also not cute ribbons. ANYWAY, you could make this asian peanut salad I did last year with a peeler muchhhh easier. I've also done my mom's cucumber and onion salad- cukes in ribbons, onions in spirals. It came out great and took about 2 minutes. Cray.

Next on my recipe list: some hot recipes. I like the consistency of these zoodles, so I would probably just warm them up, but you can also blanch them (drop into boiling water for one minute, then dunk in cold water to stop the cooking) in order to soften them a bit. I'm thinking a lemony, garlicky, wine-y shrimp dish would be good, and a red pepper and spinach dish is high on my list. I'll report back!

Tuesday, October 7

discover [spiralizer]

I almost feel bad about not having shared this with you earlier. Let me make it up to you by sharing it with you now.

Introducing: the spiralizer.

I bought this one when the price was $32- now it's $36, but lemme tell ya, it's still worth it.

It allows you to replace a starchy base with a raw vegetable base in a more creative way than a bed of lettuce. It takes me less time to spiralize a zucchini (or carrot, or apple, or onion) than it does to chop and wash a head of romaine, and DEFINITELY less time than it takes to boil pasta or make rice.

"Zoodles" (zucchini noodles) are the most popular way to use this tool- just type that into Pinterest and prepare to be inundated with zoodle recipes galore. Just about any fruit or vegetable can go through a spiralizer, but it needs to be sturdy enough to not just mush up- so, berries and tomatoes are out. You can spiralize a sweet potato or a rutabaga and make a breakfast hash, or better yet some baked french fries. It chops cabbage, it slices onions, it makes uniform thin cuts of an apple, it's just wonderful.

Seriously, AFTER MY VITAMIX DUH, this is one of the best kitchen gadgets I own, and one of the most frequently used, too. I'm going to share a few recipe favorites this week, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 6

link it up

Monday link up because I had my little sister in town since last Thursday. Why would you spend time blogging when you can spend time with family? I swear she brought a New England cold front with her, but it was lovely weather for walking and talking and making applesauce and enjoying the fall. All that's missing is the autumn color palate, but I'm sure we'll get that soon enough.

So, I've already read the book recommendation I got after taking this quiz, but it was a very good match to what I was in the mood for. Find out what you should read next. (If you're curious, Here's my review of the book I was given.)

The National Forest Service wants you to purchase a permit before you snap any selfies in front of their mountain. They've clarified their stance a bit to limit such restrictions to commercial photographers, but as the line between amateur and professional is increasingly blurred, it's a tough subject. Thoughts? I think this would make for good dinner conversation.

Cool stuff for those of us who love design AND beer (I'm thinking of you, E).

Root beer float cocktail, with no root beer and no ice cream. We're SO adult.

Thursday, October 2

bibliophile [open city]

Despite how much I've been missing city living lately, this city did NOT satisfy.

Open City, Teju Cole

This was named a best book on more than 20 end-of-the-year lists. But not on mine. Blurb before I start complaining:

A haunting novel about identity, dislocation, and history, Teju Cole’s Open City is a profound work by an important new author who has much to say about our country and our world.
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius wanders, reflecting on his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. He encounters people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.

Any author who is listed as "important" is always suspicious to me. Are they important or are their books good? Not always the same thing. I can only assume critics are referring to the writing style and narration, which I did like- the book is just you being in the main character's head. Total stream-of-consciousness. The story itself bored me, and I was trying to like it, trying to get pulled in, because I had heard it was "important". Also, you HAVE to already have guessed that 'Murica sucks for this immigrant. I don't mind that story line, as it's very true for plenty of people, but sometimes when people were rude to him, he had been rude first, making it a justifiable human reaction that has nothing to do with his immigrant status. This came up quite a bit, where he lost my sympathy before engaging with negative stereotyping or prejudices. 

For me, the best thing about this novel is that it reminded me of my dear friend, merMAN, who likes to wonder cities, is very independent, is deeply reflective and has a bad habit of falling in love with girls on the metro.